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Best Overall: Peak Design Everyday Messenger Bag at Amazon
"Built to last trip after trip without a single stitch popping out of place."
Best Compact: UO Mini Messenger Bag at Urban Outfitters
"You can store pretty much everything you’d need for both a night out and travel."
Best for Organization: Caraa Cumulus Small at Caraa
"Featherweight, super-practical, and stylish."
Best Splurge: Cuyana Convertible Satchel at Cuyana
"You’re getting three bags in one with this gorgeous messenger bag."
Best for Versatility: Michael Kors Mercer Messenger Bag at Amazon
"A practical yet stylish bag that works wonderfully for travel."
Best Convertible: Antik Kraft Faux Leather Messenger Bag at Nordstrom
"Can go from a one-shoulder carry to a backpack."
Best Nylon: Kipling Noelle Bag at Amazon
"The durable bag will hold up for years and years."
Best Budget: Goodfellow & Co. Men’s Messenger Bag at Target
"It's designed with comfort in mind."
Our Top Picks
Best Overall: Peak Design Everyday Messenger Bag
Peak Design’s products truly live up to their name: they're built to last trip after trip without a single stitch popping out of place, and they’re brilliantly designed with all the storage and organization a Type-A person could dream of. (Plus, they look pretty great to boot.) And you can bet their bags and gear for photographers are some of the best around — the company was started by a photographer who was frustrated with badly designed bags for cameras and other equipment. Peak Design’s weatherproof Everyday Messenger Bag in the 15-inch model is built for those with a photography kit to haul: you can remove the internal dividers for more flexible organization, stash gear in versatile pockets, carry your laptop to work in a padded compartment (accessible from its own opening) — and it’ll hold a full-frame DSLR, three lenses, and accessories. Even more, there are stylish colors to choose from, including tan and ash.
Best Compact: UO Mini Messenger Bag
You might not have seen these since the 90s, but mini messenger bags are back in style. To be fair, they are genius: you can store pretty much anything and everything you’d need for both a night out and travel — phone, wallet, keys, tickets, sunscreen — but they’re not as large or bulky as your standard messenger bag. It’s the perfect solution for when a purse or other bag is a little too much for your favorite streetwear looks, yet you still need some room to pack a bag for the day and want to keep your hands free while carrying it. Sure, it might be trendy, but it’s one 90s look we wouldn’t mind seeing stick around for a while.
Best for Organization: Caraa Cumulus Small
Caraa’s genius bags tick all the boxes for travel: they’re featherweight, super-practical (thanks to its waterproof nylon construction), stylish, and won’t make you stand out like a tourist — plus, the price point is right for a quality bag that’s going to hold up trip after trip. The brand’s smaller version of its Cumulus bag is built for people who value organization with its pockets and compartments galore, including ones big enough for a rolled-up shirt, chargers, and toiletries, as well as a pouch for shoes and wet items if you're heading to the gym. Better yet, the bag’s great design incorporates a squared-off bottom, so it can stay upright when you set it down. If you’re just bringing the bag for part of your trip, you can roll it up easily for packing, too. Consider this your new work, gym, travel, and everyday bag — it can truly do it all.
Best Splurge: Cuyana Convertible Satchel
The price tag might seem like a bit much, but you’re getting three bags in one with this gorgeous messenger bag — from one of Meghan Markle’s favorite brands, no less. It converts from your standard carry to both a backpack and a top-handle bag, so it can travel with you no matter the occasion. It's made for people who work on the go, too: the bag’s interior sleeve fits a 13-inch laptop, and there’s an easy-access pocket on the front so you can seamlessly grab your boarding pass and passport. Made in Italy from full-grain Italian leather, this is a bag that’s not only going to last, but it’s going to age beautifully as the leather ages, too. Choose decadent caramel, or go for the equally stylish black or silver — no matter which colorway you select, this is a bag you can keep forever.
Best for Versatility: Michael Kors Mercer Messenger Bag
If you love the convenience of a messenger bag but also want to get double-duty out of a carry, Michael Kors makes a practical yet stylish option that works wonderfully for travel. Although messenger bags can be sporty, this one is made for city girls, with pebbled cowhide leather that adds polish to its trendy size. Carry it on its strap for explorations during the daytime, then unhook the strap for an evening-ready bag that you can dress up or down. The top zips shut with an exposed zipper so no one’s tempted to try to snatch your wallet, too. Plus, we love the smart organization of this bag: the accordion-style shape reveals divided compartments and even card slots built right into this stylish purse. If black isn’t your thing, there are similar styles in white, pink, gold, and more.
Best Convertible: Antik Kraft Convertible Faux Leather Messenger Bag
Sometimes you want a messenger bag to throw over your shoulder, and sometimes you want to have a backpack to help balance a heavy load. Enter this beautiful bag from Antik Kraft, which is made of faux leather, has plenty of gorgeous detailing (check out those ruffle-like side embellishments), and can go from a one-shoulder carry to a backpack just by clipping in an extra (included) strap. It’s a great medium-size bag for errands or work, and it has a smart system of pockets and dividers inside to organize all the little things you need for the day, from lip gloss to cell phones and loose coins. The neutral shades, including black, camel, tan, and taupe, are also perfect for all four seasons, from pairing with summer’s jumpsuits to winter’s cozy wool coats.
Best Nylon: Kipling Noelle Bag
Kipling’s Noelle Bag is the perfect size as a carry-on that holds travel essentials and laptops, a day bag for explorations around town, and it can even hold enough clothing for a three-day trip (plus an extra pair of shoes). Plenty of organization (clever exterior pockets as well as internal ones) means that you won’t just be throwing your need-to-access items into the bottom of the bag. The durable nylon means that it holds up for years and years, and, once you’re back home, the black or the navy colors are stylish enough to tote as a gym bag. The dual handles at the side also easily transform it into a shoulder bag if that’s more your style.
Best Budget: Goodfellow & Co. Men’s Messenger Bag
Sometimes simplicity is the best, and at a budget-friendly price, we’re loving this streamlined messenger bag from Target. The bag opens up to reveal organization that protects your laptop while giving you plenty of flexible unoccupied space to hold textbooks, your Kindle, notebooks, or just your usual everyday items. There’s also a zippered front pocket to hold items that need easy access, like your wallet or phone. It's designed with comfort in mind, with a removable shoulder strap and padded handle for when your shoulders need a little break. The bag is 12 x 15.5 inches, so it’s roomy enough to hold essentials without feeling like a carry-on — and the laptop pocket will hold computers up to 14 inches. Best of all, it’s both durable and easy to maintain: just wipe it down if you happen to get some dust or dirt on it.
Before making their final recommendations, our writers considered 38 different messenger bags overall, screened options from 30 different brands and manufacturers, read over 75 user reviews (both positive and negative), and tested 2 of the bags themselves. All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.